Back To Beauty Basics: Winged Liner 101

Confounded by the cat eye? Look no further.


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For such a classic, timeless look, winged eyeliner is bloody difficult to master. Kind of rude, don’t you think? But you know what they say, give a gal a wing, and she’ll look good for a day. Teach a gal to wing, and she’ll look good for life. So sit yourself in front of a mirror, grab your liner, and let’s get the facts on the flicks.

What kind of liner should I use?

Gel, pencils, pens pots… The amount of choice when it comes to liner can make your head spin. The ‘best’ kind is down to personal preference, but after years of winging using every type of liner under the sun, I think liquid is the way to go for a classic, crisp line. Specifically pen-style liquid liners with a brush tip – they’re the easiest to control, and give a finer line and more opaque colour than most felt tips.

KVD Vegan Beauty’s Tattoo Liner, €21, is a cult classic, as is Chanel’s Signature de Chanel Intense Longwear Eyeliner, €40. It’s tricky enough to find pens with brush tips at the more affordable end of the spectrum, but Catrice recently released their Brush Ink Tattoo Liner Waterproof, €5.50, which is a great shout for cat eye beginners.


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Where do I even start?

Again, it’s subjective. Most seasoned wing enthusiasts will have their own idiosyncratic way of applying liner that’s been built out of years of practice, but as a novice, the first thing you should do is map out where you want your wing to go. Draw a short line from the outer corner of the eye, following the curve of your lower lash line to form the lower part of the wing.

Next, you’ll want to draw a line across the upper eyelid that connects to the outer edge of that lower line. Some people like to start at the tear duct and do it all in one fell swoop, but I prefer to begin in the middle of the eyelid and draw a thin line towards the tear duct afterwards (this stops it getting too thicc, which can be unflattering on smaller or hooded eyes, and make it easier to correct any mistakes). Fill in any gaps and bam, you’ve got a wing.

If you don’t have the steadiest of hands, rest your elbows on a table as you go. You might also find it helpful to sketch out the lines with an eyeliner pencil, then trace over them with your liquid liner. Slipped up? MUAs recommend taking some micellar water or regular old moisturiser on a flat, angled eyeshadow brush and etching away any mistakes. This is also a really great way to sharpen up a wing.


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What if I have hooded eyes?

You might think that if you have hooded eyes – where excess skin folds over and covers most of the eyelid – it’s impossible to get a perfect wing. It’s not! You just have to get a little more creative. The first thing to do is make sure that you’re drawing straight into the mirror with your eyes relaxed. Don’t be tempted to raise your eyebrows or pull the skin taut with your fingers. Work with the eyes you have, not the ones you’ve seen on Instagram.

Get to know where your ‘hood’ starts and ends, and how much of your eyelid it obscures, and you’ll see where your wing should go to avoid being covered by your lid. But if you can’t wing it out, you can simply wing around. Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes gets around her hooded eyes by drawing on a ‘batwing’ shape – when her eyes are open, it’s a traditional cat eye, and when they’re closed, it’s a super cool, graphic design. Two looks in one! (Watch her step-by-step tutorial on her Instagram Story highlights @katiejanehughes.)


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Winged liner is one of those skills that really gets better with practice, so don’t be disheartened if your flicks aren’t dagger-sharp on the first go. Take your time, work with the shape of your eyes, and soon you’ll be winging it out like it’s your job.

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